"Kiriko" is a Japanese colored glass craft known for its unique engraved patterns.
A glassblower blows clear glass into a paper-thin shape of colored glass and then rotates it to make the overall form. The result is a two-layer structure with colored glass on the outside and clear glass on the inside.
By cutting patterns into the outside surface with different type of grinding wheels, a vivid contrast is created between the colored glass and the transparent glass.
There are five steps to making Edo-Kiriko:
1. The basic outline is drawn on the surface of the glass.
2. Rough cutting of thicker lines.
3. Finer cutting of intricate designs.
4. Smooth out the surface of the design using a griding wheel.
5. Polish the surface of the entire glass.
While Kiriko in its early days used clear glass, nowadays most Kiriko works use colored glass (red, blue, etc.) that become clear when engraved. The detailed design is never drafted on the glass. A work of Edo-Kiriko is the result of the high skills of the craftsman.
It’s said that Edo-Kiriko was founded in 1834 by Kagaya Kyubei, who operated a glassware store in the Odenmacho area of Edo, now better known as Tokyo.
After studying in Osaka, which had developed advanced glassware
manufacturing methods, he returned to Edo and operated a glassware store that manufactured eyeglasses and thermometers. From there, cut glass gradually spread throughout Edo.
* The city of Edo became the largest producer of Kiriko glassware. Because the silica stones used to make glass were transported by boat from the Tohoku region to Tokyo, Kiriko spread along the Arakawa river.
In 1876 (Meiji Period), aided by the government’s policy of promoting new industries in the hope of catching up to Western industries, the Shinagawa Glass Factory was established. With this, the first modern glass production started in Japan.
In 1881, Emmanuel Hauptmann, an English engineer versed in modern glass-cutting techniques, was invited to impart these skills to selected trainees. Consequently, by combing the techniques that were passed down since the Edo Period and the latest methodologies of modern industry, the very unique style of Edo-kiriko was formed.
Kiriko made in Tokyo is called "Edo-Kiriko" and was designated as a Traditional Craft
by the Japanese government in 2002.
Kiriko has another well-known variant called "Satsuma-Kiriko", which originated in
Satsuma Domain (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture).
In contrast to Edo-Kiriko which has been inherited for over 100 years, the production of
Satsuma-Kiriko was stopped by the death of the lord of Satsuma and the Anglo-Satsuma War in 1863.
Once called "Phantom-Kiriko", production of Satsuma-Kiriko was restored in 1985.